Disaster Response and Recovery Planning

Disasters can strike at any time of the day or night. A disaster can ruin all items in a building or affect only a few. No institution is immune. Disasters can be caused by nature such as tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, heavy rains, ice storms or flash floods caused by quickly melting snow. Or damage can occur from the failure of building systems such as leaky or burst plumbing, furnace malfunctions, poor construction or faulty wiring. These failures can result in limited water and or smoke damage to total loss depending on the severity of the incident and the level of response from professionals such as firefighters. Knowing what to do, how to do it, and whom to call can make all the difference between successfully recovering collections with minimal loss to risking an entire collection to major loss.

In an effort to provide institutions of all sizes with the necessary tools to write a disaster plan, in 2001 the Disaster Plan Manual Template was created for distribution at regional workshops in Pennsylvania. The information found in the template represented the current thoughts on what should be included in such a manual. The basis of the document presented here came from years of personal experience and knowledge of disaster planning and recovery, mixed with tidbits of data learned along the way. The current template has been updated and is reproduced here for your use. 

                                    Disaster Plan Manual Template (pdf)


The template may be reproduced without permission, provided that the Penn State University Libraries are credited. As you write your own institution’s disaster plan, consider this document as a living guide --- living in the sense that it will need perpetual care to keep it useful and usable.

You can read about the Penn State Libraries’ own brush with disaster in the 1993 Pattee Library Water Emergency.

For additional information, contact Sue Kellerman, Head, Preservation Department.